GOP leaders’ pandering to extremists has left the party in crisis: analysis

GOP leaders’ pandering to extremists has left the party in crisis: analysis
Members of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys at a rally in Seattle in 2017, Wikimedia Commons
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Republican leaders are regretting their years of allying with extremists who have slowly become the base voters of their party — and are stopping the party from nominating candidates capable of winning key elections, according to an analysis in The New Republic published on Thursday.

Following the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans engaged in soul-searching after a disappointing performance that saw them lose Senate seats, governors and state legislatures, and only barely retake the House. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters that Trump's endorsement was a "kiss of death," while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the GOP had a "candidate quality problem."

"If they had just thought to run reasonable candidates instead of insane ones in races in Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, among others, they would be sitting in the catbird seat today," wrote The New Republic's Alex Shephard.

"Recognizing you have a problem is always a good first step. Surely, with this knowledge in tow, the GOP won’t make the same mistake again. Or will they? Five months after their disastrous midterm showing, a number of extreme Republicans are once again poised to run in primary elections.

"Politico’s Holly Otterbein found that Doug Mastriano, the election denier who got clobbered in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, is pushing for a comeback in the form of a Senate run. Many Republican voters, moreover, don’t care about the abundance of evidence that Mastriano is unelectable in a statewide election."

Meanwhile, Kari Lake is mulling another run in Arizona, and extreme Trump-loving Sheriff David Clarke is considering a Senate run in Wisconsin, Shephard said.

This comes as polling indicates Republican voters want candidates who check off their ideological boxes over candidates they perceive as more electable against President Joe Biden in 2024.

Moreover, Shephard noted, the few new efforts by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to boost less extreme candidates could actually backfire: "Candidates such as Mastriano and Lake would love to run ads about how the Republican establishment is out to get them. It’s easy to see a situation that’s the inverse of what happened in 2022, with the endorsement of the NRSC acting as a kiss of death in the primary."

"As with all of the latter-day hand-wringing about how the power of Trump’s endorsement was the proximate cause of the party’s chronic underperformance in the 2022 midterms, there’s a larger point being missed," wrote Shephard. "Extreme candidates succeed in Republican primaries because Republican voters prefer extreme candidates to the alternative, and they’ve been pushed to those preferences by the very same party elites that now want to change course."

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